Drummer Nick Cooper founded the group in 1996, with a goal of specializing in improvised music. In 2000, The New Yorker wrote "The horn-heavy, continually evolving collective Free Radicals produces a wildly eclectic fusion that has as many influences as there are items in the Houston, Texas, pawnshop in which they honed their sound during all-night jam sessions."
Free Radicals performs many marches and fund-raisers for anti-authoritarian and radical groups like food not bombs, peace festivals, and charities events including a continuous 24-hour concert in November 1999 to raise money for Kid Care, a health program for children. They have protested against Halliburton, and participated in marches for immigrants' rights and for a Houston janitor's union.
The band is recording a fourth studio album.
Free Radicals has won the following Houston Press awards: